John Wilson awarded the prestigious ISM Distinguished Musician Award 2018

The eminent conductor, arranger and musicologist John Wilson has been awarded the ISM Distinguished Musician Award 2018 for his services to music.

Of receiving the award, John Wilson said:


‘The roll call of previous recipients of the Incorporated Society of Musicians' Distinguished Musician Award is awe-inspiring. To be recognised by one’s peers is always humbling and I feel greatly honoured to find my name added to this illustrious list.’

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM said:


‘After careful consideration, the ISM is delighted to award John Wilson the ISM Distinguished Musician Award for his services to music. He is an eminent conductor, arranger and musicologist in his own right and also a delight to watch perform, whether it be a rousing performance of Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2 or the glittering music from the golden age of Hollywood.’

John was awarded the ISM Distinguished Musician Award on 15 March during a rehearsal of Walton’s Violin Concerto and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony at the Royal Academy of Music by Academy Symphony Orchestra.

The ISM Distinguished Musician Award is always dated the year before it is awarded to correspond with the term of the ISM President.

Established in 1976, the award recognises outstanding contributions that an individual (member or non-member) has made to musical life in the UK. Only one award is made each year and previous recipients include Sir Antonio Pappano, Dame Felicity Lott, Sir William Walton, Sir Peter Pears, Sir Adrian Boult, Sir James Galway, Jacqueline du Pré OBE, Sir Michael Tippett, Sir Charles Groves, Sir Simon Rattle, Norman Del Mar, Sir Colin Davis, Christopher Hogwood, Sir David Willcocks, Dame Fanny Waterman, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Sir Charles Mackerras, John McCabe, Sir Malcolm Arnold, Pierre Boulez, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Dame Janet Baker, Sir Mark Elder, John Stephens, Sarah Connolly, Judith Weir, Julian Lloyd Webber, Dame Emma Kirkby, Oliver Knussen CBE and Kathryn McDowell.

About John Wilson

John Wilson is known for the vivid nature of his interpretations and is applauded repeatedly for the rich and colourful sounds that he draws from orchestras in repertoire ranging from the core classical through to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. An outstanding communicator, Wilson has developed long-term affiliations with many of the UK’s major orchestras and festivals, and is working increasingly at the highest level across Europe and Australia. In 16/17 he became the Associate Guest Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducting them regularly across Scotland as well as at the BBC Proms and Aldeburgh Festival.

In 18/19 Wilson returns to the BBC Proms with the London Symphony Orchestra as well as with his own John Wilson Orchestra, and at London’s South Bank he returns to the Philharmonia Orchestra and makes his debut with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Elsewhere in the UK he conducts the BBC Philharmonic, BBC Scottish, City of Birmingham Symphony and Royal Northern Sinfonia and in Europe he returns to the Oslo Philharmonic, Bergen Philharmonic and Swedish Radio Symphony orchestras. Wilson also makes his debut at English National Opera in a new production of Porgy and Bess and in summer 2019 he returns to Glyndebourne Summer Festival for a new production of Cendrillon.

In recent seasons Wilson has made his debut with many major orchestras including Oslo Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and further afield he has twice been to Australia to conduct the Sydney Symphony. In 2016 he made his opera debut with Glyndebourne Festival Opera to great critical acclaim, described as a “sensational success” by Opera Magazine, conducting the theatre’s first ever Madama Butterfly in a new production for their autumn tour.

In 1994, Wilson formed his own orchestra, the John Wilson Orchestra, dedicated to performing music from the golden age of Hollywood and Broadway; for the past decade he has been performing with them annually at the BBC Proms and touring regularly across the UK. John Wilson and the John Wilson Orchestra record exclusively for Warner Classics (formerly EMI Classics) and their performances are broadcast regularly on television and radio.

Wilson has a large catalogue of recordings with a range of orchestras. His most recent recordings are three volumes of symphonic works by Copland with the BBC Philharmonic, described by Gramophone as “outstanding”, and two volumes of works by Richard Rodney Bennett with the BBC Scottish Symphony.

Born in Gateshead, England, John Wilson studied composition and conducting at the Royal College of Music where he was taught by Joseph Horovitz and Neil Thomson and where he won all the major conducting prizes and, in 2011, was made a Fellow.

About the ISM

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is the UK's professional body for musicians and a nationally recognised subject association for music education. Since 1882, we have been dedicated to promoting the importance of music and protecting the rights of those working in the music profession. We support over 9,000 musicians across the UK and Ireland with our unrivalled legal advice and representation, comprehensive insurance and specialist services. Our members come from all areas of the music profession and from a wide variety of genres and musical backgrounds. As well as working musicians, our membership also includes recent graduates, part-time and full-time music students, and retired musicians. We campaign tirelessly in support of musicians’ rights, music education and the profession as a whole. We are a financially independent not-for-profit organisation with no political affiliation. This independence allows us the freedom to campaign on any issue affecting musicians.

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